Photo by Shane Harms
This bud's for you: the plant everyone is talking about . Rascal OG strain photographed at a North Seattle medical cannabis collective.

Study shows cannabis use growing like weed

As 2014 arrives there are still many things left open in the cannabis industry and pending to be resolved. The Ballard News Tribune opted for a prognosis of loose ends, especially after a study was released Dec. 28 that determines the implementation of I-502 on the local level.

“I-502 Local Implementation” was conducted by CASP, the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social policy. The study examines the current status of implementing recreational cannabis in Washington State. The study stated that, “Cities and counties were given authority to pass additional zoning regulations. Cities have final authority granting licensing for marijuana businesses, following state approval.”
They sampled the top 75 most populated cities in Washington - Seattle with the most with Cheney with the least.

They categorized cities into four statuses: Zoned, Moratorium, Banned, and No Action.

Zoned was defined as the city council passing legislation that declared areas where marijuana businesses could apply or updated the Municipal Code recognizing recreational marijuana.

Moratorium was defined as the “City council passed legislation putting a hold on accepting marijuana licenses. These ranged from 6-12 months.”

Banned meant the city passed legislation banning marijuana businesses until the drug is approved federally or officials have threatened to ban. 

The No action status presumed cities took no legislative action and intend to treat marijuana businesses like any other business or that the city simply expanded medical marijuana laws to recreational.

CASP found out that of the 75 cities surveyed, 23 had been Zoned, 34 had Moratoriums, 14 opted for No Action and four had banned recreational cannabis. Kent, Lakewood, Wenatchee and SeaTac were the four with the ban status, impacting 242,080 people.

Other keys findings of the study revealed that 45 percent of surveyed cities have implemented moratoriums on accepting any marijuana related business licenses, amounting to 1.6 million Washington residents impacted.

Sharon Jacobson, co-owner of Herbs House, one of Ballard’s last remaining medical cannabis access points, said that towns are probably watching to see what happens before they commit.

“I think people are just nervous as things evolve and are just going to wait and see how things play out in Seattle or in other parts of the state,” said Jacobson.

Another interesting finding is that there were very few cities that zoned or chose No Action in southern Washington.

The study emerges after over 37 hundred marijuana business applications have been filed in Washington state. Of those applications, 1,670 are for producer licenses and 1,209 for processor licenses with 867 for proposed retail outlets. Deadline for the applications expired almost two weeks ago.

The state is planning to cap the number of recreational cannabis stores at 334 statewide, therefore some areas are expected to face a lottery for retail licenses - potentially King county.

In order for applicants to be considered they must be current residents of Washington State, and have their business areas inspected by the state, and undergo background checks.

Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has already started reviewing applicants with the intent of issuing licenses by the end of February. Actual stores opening are not expected until late spring or summer.

A big challenge for the WSLCB was determining the amount of cannabis to be consumed in WA and how that translates to licenses. There was fear that if they underestimated the demand marijuana consumers would continue purchasing from black market dealers; however if they overestimated there would be surplus quantities that could reach out of state, or to kids.

To help quantify consumption, earlier this year RAND Corp conducted an online survey called, “Before the Grand Opening,” where they asked viewers to let them know how much cannabis they smoke daily by comparing amounts next to credits cards, not weighed.

Of the 2,783 respondents from Washington State, almost 64 percent reported using cannabis at least 21 days out of the month, and typically 1.3 to 1.9 grams daily.

These figures translate to consuming between 135 to 225 metric tons of cannabis in 2013 by the 750,000 WA cannabis users, which was more than twice as much as what the WSLCB estimated a year ago.

Moreover, the study found that King, Pierce and Snohomish counties consumed the most cannabis in the state, with King accounting for more than 30 percent.

What’s more is that consumers that use it more than 21 days per month account for 80 percent of the cannabis in Washington.

The monetary value is also something to consider when a single gram of cannabis averages $10 to $12 dollars a gram.

However, WA officials are not planning on capturing the entire marijuana market in the first year of legal recreational sales, but rather, have state-licensed growers produce 80 metric tons of cannabis -- half for traditional use as dried flowers and half for marijuana-infused products.

The industry hinges on what Eric Holder and the Department of Justice stated a few months ago and that was that the federal government would not sue Washington and Colorado over plans to tax and regulate marijuana sales for adults over 21.

However the DOJ had a few stipulations for the two States. A majority of those stipulations centered on preventing violence and danger from “drugged driving.” Other stipulations included, preventing minors from obtaining cannabis, controlling the revenues by state bodies and not criminal agencies, keeping the substance off federal property and not using it as a vehicle to traffic other illegal drugs.

With the federal government’s contingent approval, now comes the task of phasing out the medical cannabis laws or curtailing the medical industry in order to be more compatible (controllable and taxable) with I-502, which is still underway with two bills that limit home grows and limit the quantity a patient can have (3 ounces) among other amendments.

“My heart goes out to patients because the state store wont be able to legally tell customers the health benefits of what their selling because its not backed by the FDA, and there are still so many patients that are new to using cannabis medicinally and will not have the care they need from the MMJ community,” said Jacobson.

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